How can I avoid probate?
Probate is the legal process of a court overseeing the distribution of a person’s estate. Probate allows the decedent’s property to legally transfer to their heirs, legatees, or devisees. If, however, the decedent plans ahead while they are still alive, probate can be avoided using one or more of the following tools:
1. Trust: A trust can be established to hold all of the person’s property. The trust describes who is to administer and distribute the property during the settlor’s life and after the settlor dies. The trust also describes how the property is to be used and distributed both during the settlor’s life and after the settlor dies.
2. Transfer on Death Deed: A transfer on death deed allows real property to be transferred to a designated beneficiary upon the grantor’s death.
3. Joint Tenancy with the Right of Survivorship: Real property and vehicles can be held by two or more people in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship. As the owners die, ownership of the entire property vests in the surviving owners.
4. Payable on Death Beneficiary: Bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies can have a designated payable on death beneficiary. The beneficiary can be named by completing paperwork with the individual companies holding the accounts. Once the account owner dies, the funds can be transfered to the designated beneficiary without the need for probate.
5. Small Estate Affidavit: The successors of the decedent can complete an affidavit to have the decedent’s property distributed if: 1) the fair market value of the decedent’s property located in Oklahoma does not exceed $20,000.00, 2) no petition for probate has been filed, 3) each claiming successor is entitled to payment or delivery of the property in the respective proportions set forth in the affidavit, and 4) all taxes and debts of the estate have been paid. If the property is in the form of funds held in a bank account on which no payable on death beneficiary has been designated, the funds can be distributed by the heirs of the decedent presenting an affidavit if: 1) the total funds held are $20,000.00 or less, and 2) the decedent left no will.
For more information on how to avoid probate, contact Ward Lee & Coats today for a free consultation.